“We need solidarity.”
Torsten Stau on work wear, cooperation with civil society, and CmiA in the mass market
Mr. Stau, you are responsible for many areas at the REWE Group. What do you do exactly?
Within the REWE Group, I am responsible for the areas of purchasing and category management non-food, capital and consumer goods as well as PENNY Online. In addition, I am the CEO of HLS GmbH, which stands for Handel-und Lager-Service, a trade and warehouse service provider. And finally, Non-Executive Director of REWE Far East Ltd., the procurement organization of the REWE Group, which procures goods from the Asian market for the REWE Group.
The REWE Group has been a partner of CmiA for many years. It has continuously increased its demand for CmiA cotton. How can business and sustainability be combined?
At the start of the cooperation 10 years ago, our share of more sustainable cotton was 15 percent. Today it’s over 70 percent, with the aim of converting to 100 percent for all private label textile products by 2025. To achieve this goal, we rely on the Cotton made in Africa raw material, which ensures both ecological and social improvements at the beginning of the supply chain, thus helping us to live up to our responsibility in the value chain. On the other hand, we have now managed to ensure that CmiA can hold its own in price competition with conventional cotton.
What feedback on CmiA do you get from employees, customers and media?
In 2016, we started to switch our work wear to CmiA. This will be the case for all workwear in Germany by 2020. In addition, we regularly inform our employees about CmiA through activities. Externally, we inform the public about this successful cooperation through various formats and on various occasions. Internal and external feedback is entirely positive.
You have many years of experience in the international textile industry. How do you assess the development of the topic of sustainability?
Demand for more sustainable cotton has evolved from a niche to a mass market. CmiA also has its share in this. In terms of content, a lot was added: Whereas in the 1990s, we were almost exclusively concerned with social issues, today, also ecological issues increasingly have to be solved.
Do you have an example of this?
Many. Another very striking signal sent against disposable plastic was when the REWE Group became the first retailer in Germany to discontinue selling extremely non-durable plastic straws across the board in spring 2019. We are also getting deeper and deeper into the supply chain. A good example of this are our activities as part of the Detox campaign, with which we are eliminating harmful chemicals from lower levels of textile production in order to help protect water as a resource. In addition, many industry and multi-stakeholder initiatives have emerged, such as the ‘Bündnis für nachhaltige Textilien’ (Alliance for Sustainable Textiles). A joint commitment is often more effective and efficient than individual activities. We are also responding to the growing demand for transparency.
Do you also face challenges when implementing CmiA?
Sure. This is particularly true in countries that are themselves strong producers of cotton. There, the question of price is much more difficult to implement.
If you had one wish, what would the textile industry look like in the future?
We need even more industry solutions and market participants to join forces to implement social and ecological requirements within the value chain. This applies vertically in the supply chain for suppliers and production sites as well as horizontally for cooperation between companies. To achieve this, we first need more transparency in the value chains. In order to change basic conditions, companies must also cooperate with civil society, governments, and standard organizations.